Why Did a Bunch of Zelos Games Athletes Hit Snatch PRs? Diving into the Science Behind the Phenomenon

December 7, 2022 by , and
Photo Credit: Rachel Moore (@rachmoorephoto)
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The 2022 Zelos Games have come to a close, but we’re still talking about one event in particular. Event 1.3: a combination of double-unders and snatches in an EMOM-style lifting event. 

A notable number of athletes hit a personal best in their snatch and we were curious if this was just by chance or if there was any reasoning behind it. After speaking with Mike Giardina, the senior manager of health education at CrossFit, and weightlifting specialist Beau Burgener, it seems pretty clear there was some science to back up these massive lifts. 

The CrossFit licensed event was a mix of both live in-person competition and online participation and consisted of four workouts. Just under 300 people were registered to compete, including 11 men and 12 women who competed at Camp Rhino in Las Vegas. Of those, 7 elite athletes hit lifetime PRs, according to analysis done by Morning Chalk Up. And a sizable number of online competitors also hit major PRs. In total we found 36 athletes had hit a personal best. 

Some of the most noteworthy lifts were Tudor Magda and Ellia Miller. Magda hit a 322 pound snatch, which was a 22 pound PR. While Miller hit a massive 215 snatch, which was a 15 pound PR for her. Both athletes participated in the live event. 

Zelos Games Event 1.3 

“Ace of Spades” is an EMOM-style lifting event:


*Every 1:30 until failure or completion:

  • Round 1: (0-1:30) 30 Double-Unders + 3 Snatch @ 185/125 lbs
  • Round 2: (1:30-3:00) 30 Double-Unders + 3 Snatch @ 205/135 lbs
  • Round 3: (3:00-4:30) 30 Double-Unders + 3 Snatch @ 225/145 lbs
  • Round 4: (4:30-6:00) 30 Double-Unders + 2 Snatch @ 235/155 lbs
  • Round 5: (6:00-7:30) 30 Double-Unders + 2 Snatch @ 245/160 lbs
  • Round 6: (7:30-9:00) 30 Double-Unders + 1 Snatch @ 255/165 lbs
  • Round 7: (9:00-10:30) 30 Double-Unders + 1 Snatch @ 265/170 lbs
  • Round 8: (10:30-13:30) If you clear all bars…3:00 to find a max snatch

Miller, won the Military Service Member division of the Occupational Games in 2021 and 2022 and is a Semifinals athlete, said she was nervous going into the competition and felt as though she was the underdog. Not long after the event got going, she proved that she belonged. She credits her PR to the way the workout was structured by beginning at light reps and giving you a long enough time domain to compose yourself before the next window started. 

  • “It was probably one of the best snatches I’ve ever done in my life. It felt so good. I had a solid catch. Stood it up, didn’t have to take any extra steps, just straight up. It was incredible.”
  • “It was almost like, because the max out window was on the shorter end of what we normally see for max out windows it forced you to be aggressive with your jumps but then at the same time, you know you’re not wasting your time and energy tiring yourself out at some of the lighter weights that you might do otherwise.”

With the time domain and movements, the workout essentially sets you up to PR, adds Miller. 

After taking a look at the workout, Giardina speculates there is an association with the central nervous system, along with the sympathetic nervous system. Giardina holds an Master in Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the University of Southern California and an MS in Exercise Physiology from Kennesaw State.

  • “I think there is something about a training status specific to the central nervous system coming into an event like this that could prevent central nervous system fatigue and the ability to produce force while under fatigue.”
  • The athletes abilities “to down regulate very quickly and then to tap into the sympathetic nervous system very quickly, to me that’s what makes sense in this scenario.” 

The way the sympathetic nervous system functions is when there is some sort of threat, your sympathetic nervous system is there to prepare your body very quickly to respond to that stimulus, adds Giardina. 

This, along with the parasynthetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest system, helps you calm down and go into a more relaxed state. 

“The reason those two can be important in this scenario is because if you’re ramping up and you’re staying highly ramped up you’re going to fatigue and that can be detrimental to a workout like this that lasts 13 and a half minutes,” said Giardina. 

But if you can “tap into” that down, regulate very quickly, and let everything calm down and tap into it again then you kind of create the situation we’re looking at here, he adds. 

While there was no perfect science behind getting this data, we still believe the number of PRs is worthy of analysis. Furthermore, we spoke to Beau Burgener, team leader of Burgener Strength, about this phenomenon and he says there are several factors at play here that “set up the athlete for success.”

  • “First and foremost is that you’re doing a plyometric movement, such as double unders, before you’re going into an Olympic lifting movement. As something that we kind of hold our hats on as subject matter experts in weightlifting is the importance of plyometrics. So you’re priming and you’re prepping the body and then you’re going and hitting an explosive movement.”
  • “The second thing that stood out to me was the rep scheme of how they approached this ladder with it being three triples. That is very similar to how we warm ourselves up when we prep ourselves up in competitions.” 
  • “That EMOM format is something that we absolutely love to see. Because it allows the athlete to get out of their head, to not sit there and be waiting around.” 

Burgener, who hails from the Burgener weightlifting dynasty, adds the last component is the whole aspect of being in competition mode. Competition drives the body mentally, physically, emotionally to a level that is just uncharted territory of what we’ve hit in the past.”

Hit this workout and let us know if you PR too!

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